BRIDGE Blog: Bridging Capital: Findings from our a Rotterdam – Madrid Dialogue on Innovation

Madrid-Rotterdam gathering
Short description
Within UIA we have also been examining how we better understand the process of urban transformation. In these cases, cities work alone, rather than in networks. But we can see different UIA cities addressing the same key questions. One of these is: How do we grow local talent to transform disadvantaged neighbourhoods?

Rotterdam and Madrid are two cities with a strong interest in this question. Both are front-runner UIA cities focused on Jobs and Skills, but approaching the challenge from slightly difference angles. Rotterdam, Europe’s logistics hub, is exploring ways to ensure that the Next Economy does not leave young people in Rotterdam South behind. Madrid, a city rebuilding after the Global Financial Crisis, is supporting the development of the Social and Solidarity Economy in its four most disadvantaged barrios. 

In April, with the help of the MARES Expert, Alessandro Coppola, we brought stakeholders from both cities together in Madrid. The aim was to gain a better understanding of their respective work and to share lessons from their innovative experiences. We capture their story of exchange and learning in the video of the event. 

Whilst involved in this, I’ve also been thinking about the lessons that connect with an earlier UIA paper we did across the four Round 1 Jobs and Skills projects, which explored the cross-cutting themes of Talent, Key Industry sectors, Place/Space and the Brokerage role of city authorities. This Rotterdam-Madrid exchange also plugged into these themes.

On talent and key industry sectors, the Rotterdam Bridge model explores future labour market trends and seeks to channel young people in Rotterdam South into the city’s growth sectors. This involves working upstream, in schools, as well as building a close dialogue with employers. The details of this journey are captured in our UIA journals

The Madrid MARES approach is more bottom-up, utilising trusted community organisations to map local talent assets and stimulate social economy growth. There, each of four target barrios has a specific industry focus (Mobility, Food, Energy and Health/care)). Both represent different ways that cities anticipate the future for their deprived areas and how best to support them. The UIA MARES journals share their progress to date. 

An important take away for the Rotterdam team on the industry focus was the potential role of co-operative business models as channels for local talent. Another was the innovative way that MARES has proactively reached into communities to identify and map talents and latent human resource assets.

The notion of place and inequality are central to each project. Rotterdam South is the most deprived part of the Netherlands, characterized by high levels of first and second-generation migrant households, low education levels and high unemployment rates. The target Madrid neighbourhoods include Villaverde, a low-income peripheral area, also with high levels of migrants as well as a collapsed industrial base. All of these neighbourhoods have high levels of bonding social capital but low levels of the bridging social capital that help build connections beyond the immediate community. Rewriting the narrative in both places is a shared mission for these two cities. Their UIA projects contribute to that bigger goal. 

In both of these UIA projects, the role of the city authority is central. But in each, the municipality is exploring ways to rewire the relationship both with citizens and with the local neighbourhoods. A key goal – and challenge - has been establishing distributed delivery models, recognizing the limits of municipal reach in larger cities like these. This brokerage function continues to grow as a key feature of the public sector innovation role. 

One of Rotterdam’s conclusions is that in future, it would be better to have even higher levels of devolution, encouraging higher levels of service design within the supply chain.  For Madrid, although they have mobilised very creative delivery partners such as SIC VIC and Tangente, the pace of municipal bureaucracy has inhibited progress. In both cases, improving the public procurement model is at the heart of future discussions, in ways that bring procurement colleagues in as key contributors. 

On 12th June Rotterdam hosted an international workshop, which will allow further space to explore and share these key findings. 

Author: Eddy Adams, UIA expert for BRIDGE project

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